Christmas Card Letter 2014 — It is a week before Christmas and all through the house the cats are a purring, maybe there’s a mouse. The stocking aren’t hung yet. The tree just arrived. But given the circumstances, were glad to be alive.
This time last year I was trudging northward from Springer Mountain Georgia on the Appalachian Trail (AT and was just entering southern Virginia. My persona on the trail was an elfin, sometimes bearded hiker named Sisu. Sisu is an untranslatable Finnish word that some simplify to “guts,” but which I believe is more aptly described as a form of much needed “irrational persistence.”
In a phrase, “The weather outside was (mostly) frightful,” but I didn’t much care. I was 500 miles into one of one of life’s most epic adventures with the most delicious parts yet to come. By Christmas some incredibly interesting people had crossed my path and I couldn’t wait to meet many more as I envisioned my saga unfolding.
Along the way I even got to camp out with several old friends who lived near the trail. I think the best of it was at my cousin Deb’s house where I stayed several days and refused to leave until her wine cellar was dry. 🙂
The year sadly, to borrow again, was the best and the worst — all at the same time. After celebrating Christmas at home with my family, I returned to the trail only to be called to my mother’s bedside six days later. She was a fraction short of 85. After she passed into history I struggled with her loss and did not return to my hike until the first week in March. The weather had not improved with time.
Real life continued during my trek and I ducked off the trail in Pennsylvania salute an aging mentor before it was too late, and later to attend a very special wedding in Atlanta.
The triumphant moment struck around mid-day Aug. 6th. I tagged a weathered placard demarking the AT’s northern terminus atop Mt. Katahdin in central Maine, some 2,185 miles and 14 states north of the starting point in Georgia. Done. In the books. Thank heavens. Now what?
Long distance hiking is a soul validating experience. The aftermath is another thing all together.
After returning home, endorphin withdrawal wrestled me to deep recesses probably most familiar to opioid addicts. There I languished mostly in a fog without much focus or motivation for close to three months. Slowly I returned to my routine: blogging, running and weight lifting, volunteer activities maintaining hiking trails in Shenandoah National Park, plus I added one day per week at the Appalachian Trail Conservancy’s visitor center in Harpers Ferry, West Virginia.
Somehow during my malaise, a book outline about the special considerations needed for hiking the AT after 50 got written. I hope to hammer it out over the winter and have it on Amazon in e-book format in time for the release of Robert Redford’s new movie based on Bill Bryson’s book, “A Walk in the Woods.” The movie, along with one currently playing entitled “Wild,” starring Reece Witherspoon, is expected to draw flood of new hikers to the trail, that some say will be the likes of which mankind has not seen since Noah.
Other than that, being retired is like, well … being retired. Not that there isn’t enough work to do, but my capacity exceeds the available supply for now.
The family is doing great. Linda took up a part time job while I was away. She loves it. Liisa has a good job and is fully fledged. She lives five minutes away, so we do get to see her often. After our new windows are installed, we’ll add new colors to several rooms and liven up the house a bit.
We miss all of you — our extended family and many friends who are scattered all over “hell’s half acre.” If only we could see each and every one of you this year.
Here’s wishing you most sincerely, a Merry Christmas and a Happy New year.